Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Strange and Storied History of Silence Do-Good, part 5: All Silent on the Mexican Front

It is beyond the scope of this article to give an exhaustive account of the military operations that occurred along the American Front of World War 1. It is hoped that an overview of Silence Do-Good's actions within the Mexican Theatre, along with excerpts from her journals, will give a sense of the flow of history. Further study is left as an exercise for the interested reader.

March 9, 1916
For the first time in over a hundred years, American soil was violated by a hostile invading force and her citizens killed. I do not rightly know how I knew such had occurred; I credit both Providence and my perceptum terrarum in this regard. With much haste I left the Canal Zone, transiting forthwith unto the disturbance.

A mighty rage came upon me as I saw a detachment of the Mexican Army, at least 500 strong, assaulting American soldiers and townsfolk alike. The soil of our nation itself responded to my rage, offering up great boulders which I in my fury reached down, seized, and threw like gargantuan cannonballs. These shattered with great force among the Mexican cavalry, scattering them and breaking their charge.

The officers responded by turning their artillery upon my position, and the land rose up to protect me from harm. Gevurah surged within me and I became, in that moment, fully what my father had intended. As the Golem of Prague had defended the Jews of the ghetto, so did I finally become the Golem of America.

I strode among them unharmed. I desired something with which to smite them, and the land responded, creating a mighty granite cudgel which I wielded with both hands. I challenged them, and they trembled; I struck the ground, and they fell.

I smote them, and they died.

God help me, I ended their lives and do not regret my actions. I fear for them, and what I must do to them. I fear what I have become.

March 10, 1916
We are at war with Mexico. God help us all.
Silence at her enlistment (and subsequent commissioning) ceremony, 1916
March 11, 1916
At the behest of President Wilson and General Pershing, I have joined the war effort. I tried to argue that the army was no place for a lady, and to my chagrin was reminded of my quite unladylike historical activities. Sometimes I forget that I am not a real woman of flesh and bone, but a tool forged in the fire of rebellion. But I shall honor my nation and the desires of my father. Today, this tool became a weapon of war and enlisted with the Punitive Expeditionary Force, swearing an oath before God and Country to serve until discharged.

I was both honored and amused to be immediately brevetted to the rank of Colonel and attached directly to Gen. Pershing's HQ unit. The men refer to him as "Black Jack"; apparently I am to be known in official documents as "Col. Cudgel." I look forward to discovering how the Secret Service shall keep my identity secret from the men who serve under me.

It is of interest to note that it was not the Secret Service, but rather the War Department censors, who kept her identity hidden from the public. Official dispatches and personal letters home, from enlisted to officer, were scrutinized and all references to Silence -- including use of her powers, or even errant uses of the pronoun "she" when referring to Col. Cudgel, were redacted.

This secrecy proved rather difficult to implement after the war, as demobilized soldiers could not be prevented from talking. But that is a dilemma for a later time...

March 15, 1916
We have invaded Mexico. I find it odd that invading another nation does not feel especially different from any other stroll in the desert.

It is obvious the men know who I am, but are polite enough not to discuss it in front of me. They are nice boys, and I worry how many of them will die.

Ides of March, indeed.

The following are excerpts from correspondence and reports throughout the campaign.

I do not care for General Pershing's aide. He is stubborn, hot-headed, and dangerous. Mark my words, this Lieutenant Patton shall come to a bad end, and I can only hope he does not take many with him.

We have pursued the Mexican Army into the foothills of the Sierra Madres. Following them is a death sentence, but what choice do we have? Both General Pershing and myself are uneased by an army that neither stands and fights nor routs, but instead withdraws deeper into their country.

Today I learned the true meaning of "taking point." The men learned the true meaning of "taking cover." When being shot at, many of them become as little boys and hide behind my figurative skirts. It is fortunate for them that my skirts are large and bulletproof.

Even though we vastly outnumber the Mexican forces, they continue to pick us off a few at a time. They lure us into bad terrain, trap us, and then fade away. They mean to win this war by inches and hours, and damn them for the effectiveness of their ignoble tactics.

The growing feeling of unease was soon to be proven correct.

May 5, 1916
General Arámbula, it is un-Christian to hate a man as much as I do you. Pray that I am not the one who finds you. We are commanded to love our enemies but I can find no charity in my heart for a monster.

We have been duped, and damn me for a fool for not seeing it sooner. Whilst we were pursuing Mexican forces through the mountains, and taking heavy fire from the body which was luring us further away, the main body of their army crossed the border into Texas, assaulting and occupying the city of El Paso. My heart cried out to defend my country but I could not abandon my post and leave the men in my command to die.

Today I carried a field gun over my shoulder, as I would an errant lamb, and strode into the killing zone. Immediately upon taking fire I emplaced it and the men sheltering behind me fired it. Artillery as a direct-fire weapon is crude but undoubtedly effective. If I have to level every square inch of these mountains to defeat Arámbula then I shall. If I must flatten all of Mexico to bring this monster to justice, then I shall. To judge the murderer of a city I shall shake the very pillars of heaven itself.
Just see if I do not.

May 14, 1916
I still do not like Lt. Patton, but he is effective, albeit in a rough manner. Today he and a small force of men raided a house in San Miguelito and after a short but vicious battle was able to kill a high-ranking general in the Mexican army. What is most troubling is that he reported hearing shouts of German as several white men fled the scene. General Pershing thinks that Imperial Germany is supplying Mexico with military advisors and war matériel. I am inclined to agree.

The revelation clarifies a mystery. HQ could not understand why an educated Mexican general, by all reports and scholar and a gentlemen, would act as a common border bandit. It is now obvious that the initial assault was a test of our defenses, and their withdrawal a means of luring us from our fortifications. Were we any lesser unit, the Punitive Expedition would have been caught in enfilade and slaughtered. I thank Providence that my presence here grants us greater defensive capacity.

We have dug in and fortified our position with barbed wire and trenches. With the National Guard garrisoning our southern border and the draft instated, more Americans will soon be flowing south to reinforce us with infantry, heavy artillery, cavalry and these experimental "tanks."  Now it is the Mexican army which is flanked between our fortifications and our advancing heavy units.

We are no longer the Punitive Expeditionary Force. We are now the vanguard of the American Army along the Mexican Front, and soon we shall be pushing towards Mexico City. The Great War has met us, and found us ready to fight.

Sadly, this is the last existing journal entry, as Silence started a new diary soon thereafter, which was subsequently lost during the campaign. Here is a brief timeline of the war:

June 21, 1916: An exceptionally bloody battle is fought between Mexican and American forces in the town of Carrizal. The "Massacarizal," as it became known by the journalists of the day, helps fuel anti-American sentiment. Germany expresses its support for Mexico and begins openly supplying military advisors and ammunition, including poison gas.

September 25, 1916: Commencement of Operation Valence begins. It is a three-pronged assault designed to penetrate deeply into the heart of Mexico while simultaneously denying it critical resources.
  • Force Indigo, a naval battlegroup out of New York City, bombards the port of Veracruz before landing marines to occupy what is left of the city. This breaks the critical supply chain between Mexico and Germany and gives a beachhead for American forces to attack westward into the interior of the country.
  • Force Ivory, a naval battlegroup from San Franciso, similarly assaults Puerto Vallarta (a much smaller municipality) and offloads army troops from passenger ships before moving south to secure the Panama Canal. The army forces drive east with the goal of meeting up with elements of Force Indigo just south of the capital.
  • Force Crimson, led by General Pershing and supplemented with planes from Army Air Corps, drives south towards Mexico City. Forces Indigo and Ivory form the anvil; Crimson is the hammer.

October 1916 - May 1920:  This has been dubbed "The Great Southward Slouch" due to the speed at which the American forces made progress. To illustrate the fatigue in this campaign, imagine every World War 1 movie you have ever seen, with the trenches and barbed wire and machine guns and huge lumbering tanks and useless cavalry and endless artillery barrages and liberal use of poison gas. Now add to that having to fight through the tropical heat, with fatigue born from desert dehydration and jungle rot. Now add to THAT the extreme population density of central Mexico, specifically around the capital, and realize that before you can take the city you have to do something about all the people, because you don't want to kill civilians. If you let them go, they could escape behind your supply lines and wage guerrilla war upon your rear-echelon elements, but if you bottle them up then you are just increasing the density of defenders around your final goal.

May 18th, 1920: The Siege of Mexico City. Exhausted by the Southward Slouch, supply lines stretched to bursting, the American forces decide to simply dig in around the capital and let the punishing summer heat take its toll upon the natives.

Generals Obregon, Arámbula and Pershing, at the Surrender of Mexico, 1920.

August 8, 1920: The population of the city rioting due to lack of water, the nation of Mexico surrenders. Wilson does not demand land concessions or reparations, and seeks only a stronger and more formalized border between the U.S. and Mexico. This is due largely to the fact that the economies of both nations are nearly in ruins, and more territory for the U.S. would result in more citizens to feed and clothe and more infrastructure to repair. The only exception to this is a large U.S. Naval base permanently stationed at Veracruz. General Arámbula is imprisoned here, where he is tried for war crimes. He is eventually found guilty and executed by firing squad in 1921.

October 12: The last occupying American forces return home. Thousands of men, suffering from shell-shock and alcoholism, try to reintegrate back into the work force. Many of them fail. More than a few of these men have managed to hold onto their rifles.

Prohibition is enacted. Organized crime rises. Violent criminals become the norm. And many of these men, trained to fight but unable to fit in, who served with the mythical Silence Do-Good, decide to follow in her footsteps...

Next: Rise of the Mystery Men

The character of Silence Do-Good is copyright Erin Palette 2011. All art in these sections is either public domain, or machinima from the City of Heroes MMO. I do not claim any ownership of art.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial- No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
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  1. I am on tenterhooks. I had to look up what tenterhooks *were* so I could go and find some to be on. I am also trying to avoid the automatic and easy reference to 'Watchmen' because I know you'll be going somewhere very different, because you're you. :D

  2. Just started reading your histories and I have to say it's an amazing piece of work. Well done you!! I'm quite inspired to do something similar, although none of my toons are quite of long lived... not counting the superpowered roman, of course! Once again, great work!! :)

  3. Seriously. Alternate histories for WW1 AND Mexico? So impressed. Most people just do the whole "What if the South won?" or "What if the Nazis won?" Yawn.


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